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What to look for when buying USB-C cables and adapters


Buying a cable shouldn’t be difficult. It doesn’t have to be if you follow these simple tips.

USB standards have a long history, and they’ve gone through plenty of changes since first implemented in 1996. The premise behind them is providing a way to standardize cables, connectors, communication, and power transfer between electronic devices. Those are some pretty high goals to reach, but the specifications do just that and the rest is up to the manufacturers of all the products that use them.

Some of the first equipment to use USB was the really old, brightly colored iMac G3 (I had a Tangerine Rev. 3 model) and, oddly enough, speakers. Trust me when I say things were not even close to plug-and-play, and really, it stayed that way for a few years until operating systems caught up. But, those speakers and that orange iMac would still be able to communicate with any device made today provided it didn’t do something to break legacy USB support. USB was designed to be the one standard that does it all, and that’s pretty much how it all worked out.

You can think of USB-C as a set of rules to make smarter USB plugs, cables, and connectors.

The USB-C specification is one of those USB standards. Released in August 2014, it’s a set of rules for a small 24-pin reversible plug connector to use with existing USB systems. Some of the connections inside are used to tell which way a cable is plugged in; others are used to transfer data or power, and some are used as a dedicated connection to allow both sides to talk to each other. There are also connections and software rules that make sure the right amount of electrical current is being sent to safely charge or power one device from the other using the Power Delivery specifications. Though it was released in tandem with the USB 3.1 specification, USB Type-C rules are only for the physical connections — data speeds are covered by other rules. You can think of USB-C as a set of rules that only exist to make smarter USB plugs, cables, and connectors.

More: Getting to know USB-C infographic

Power Delivery is one of the best features of the USB specification and also the part that makes buying the right cable or adapter important. Technically, Power Delivery 2.0 is a separate standard and applies to USB Type-A, USB Type-C, and Micro-USB but when you’re dealing with normal consumer-grade devices you will only see it through USB-C. That’s great for safety reasons; if you thought finding the right USB-C cable was a mess, try to find a “USB Type-A to Micro-USB PD 5A” cable.

With USB-C and Power Delivery, all connected devices can send power out as well as receive power in. You can charge a phone or set of headphones or anything else that uses the USB-C spec with another phone that uses the USB-C specs (I do it all the time because the Galaxy S8+ has a decently-sized battery). You could also rig up cables that can pull power from several phones and charge the battery in a MacBook if you wanted to. We tried that once, too.

Buying the right cable is a must or you risk damaging the things you’re plugging in, or even starting a fire.

USB-C with Power Delivery (PD) also includes a native way to “fast-charge” one USB-C PD-certified device safely from another using that dedicated connection channel mentioned above. While the previous version of USB power standards allowed for five volts and 2.5 watts (USB 2.0) or 4.5 watts (USB 3.0), the new PD specs allow using up to 20 volts and 100 watts. The tiniest bit of current could potentially cause a fire or harm you under the right circumstances, but 100 watts of power is dangerous even in the best situation. We’re talking amounts of electricity that can cause serious damage if not used the right way.

It’s also an open specification that anyone can use and alter to better suit their needs. This means not everything using USB-C is the same and buying the right cable is a must or you can risk damaging the things you’re plugging in or even starting a fire.

More: This USB-C problem isn’t going away anytime soon

But don’t fret. You don’t need to know all the rules in the USB specs or how it can tell which way it’s plugged in or any of the other geeky details to make the right choice if you follow a few easy tips when you’re buying a cable or connector. These three tips will help you get exactly what you need.

Know what you need


Remember when we said the USB-C spec was an open standard that companies can change to better suit their needs? Phone manufacturers are doing that, and sometimes the cables and chargers they sell and use aren’t compatible with all the rules. Qualcomm’s Quick Charge is really popular, and phone makers can use a USB-C connector that isn’t fully compatible with the USB-C PD standards. Other companies have their own proprietary fast charging methods, and you’ll need a cable that’s compliant with their equipment, too.

Not everyone is using USB-C in a standards compliant way, so be mindful of “quick charge” methods.

If your phone has a USB-C port you can look at the papers it came with or online to see if it uses the port in a way that’s not “standards compliant.” Terms like “Quick Charge” or “Turbo Charge” or any other trademarked fast charging method are a dead giveaway. The list of devices doing this is always changing but we’ve seen phones from every manufacturer that aren’t fully standards compliant. That means you shouldn’t use the charger, cable, or any adapter that came with them for any other piece of equipment without making sure they are compatible.

A third-party high-quality cable that follows the USB-C PD specifications can be safely used with phones that use other quick charging methods, but don’t go the other way and use cables designed for Qualcomm Quick Charge or any other fast charging method without checking to see if they are standards compliant.

The best thing to do is use the cable, charger and any adapters that came with your phone and order direct from the manufacturer if you need a spare or replacement. We know that’s not feasible for most of us so make sure you check before you plug anything in.

Buy a reputable brand


We’ve all seen ultra-cheap USB cables online or at the drug store and were tempted to buy them. While still not the best idea in the world, most of the time that was fine with the older USB Type-B micro standard used on most phones and other gadgets. Low voltage and low current were sent on the same pins every time, and the cable only connected in one direction. That’s changed, even for the older Micro-USB “standards” because of the need for faster charging.

Don’t buy a USB-C cable just because it’s cheap.

When you’re buying a USB-C cable or a connector, be leery of companies you’ve never heard of and stick with names that are generally trusted. This is the best way to make sure the cable is using the appropriate size wires inside, the connector is properly constructed and the right resistance is being used. All three of these things are important when you’re sending more current over tiny wires, and cheaply-made cables that aren’t using the right components can be dangerous.

Don’t blindly buy a cable because it’s a “name-brand” though, as we’ve seen some that aren’t built correctly. That’s where the next tip comes in …

Make use of reviews or forum posts

There are still a lot of cables that have a USB-C plug on one end and a “regular” USB plug on the other that are non-compliant in a dangerous way.

Besides using the appropriately sized wire and properly shielding the cable and connector ends, a “regular” USB to USB-C cable requires a 56k Ohm resistor to act as what’s called a “pullup” on the VBUS (pins 2 and 17 if you’re curious) power channel. This is one of the things you need so a USB-C device can let a power source know how much current to send and when to stop sending it. Using a cable with the wrong size wire will damage the wire. Using a cable with the wrong size resistor can damage the things plugged into each end or start a fire. If one of those things plugged in is your phone you certainly don’t want it to be damaged and nobody likes a house fire.

You can test the resistance of a cable yourself, or you can see what someone who already did has to say.

This isn’t just a problem with bargain-bin cables, either. Some very high-profile companies have had (or still have) issues with their cables. If you’re the type who has fun doing things like testing continuity and resistance of USB cables, that’s awesome and you should test everything you buy then share your results. If you’re not, you can do a quick google search of the brand or part number and see what those people have to say.

I’ll do my part here since I do like to do things like test cables. These Anker brand 6-foot cables are advertised as being compliant, and I’ve cut one open to make sure. They will work to fast charge every device that uses the USB-C PD standards, as well as work with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3 and Motorola’s Turbo Charge. I am unable to test them with Dash Charge but see no reason why they wouldn’t work as advertised. The best part is that they’re inexpensive and you can buy a handful of them right now and not have to worry about cables until you change phones.

See at Amazon

USB-C isn’t dangerous. It’s capable of safely delivering relatively high current as long as the proper equipment is used, and offers a lot of benefits because of the way it can communicate with other compliant devices. What started out by powering small speakers in the late twentieth century is now robust enough to talk with the instruments used to make the music that comes through them or even the bus the band drives to concerts. What’s important is that you’re using the proper cables and adapters, though.

Just follow these tips, and you’ll be fine.

Updated February 2018: Updated with new information and new tips on buy USB-C cables and adapters for the latest devices.


This AmazonBasics 50-mile indoor HDTV antenna is only $21

Stop paying so much for TV.

This AmazonBasics 50-mile indoor HDTV antenna is down to $21.39, its lowest price ever. it regularly sells for $28 and has only dropped from that price once before, but even that previous drop didn’t go as low as this one.


The 50-mile range is helpful particularly for people who don’t live in urban centers. You want to make sure your antenna can reach the signals coming from the nearest broadcast tower. This antenna lets you pickup channels like ABC, NBC, PBS, Fox, and more. It has black and white sides, and it can be painted over if you would like it to be a different color. The coaxial cable is 16 feet long. It comes with a one-year warranty.

Use this map of DTV signals from the FCC to make sure this antenna works for you.

Pair this antenna with the $79 HDHomeRun Connect Duo and not only can you keep up cable TV without a subscription, you can then transmit it to your mobile devices like your phone or tablet.

If you want an HDTV antenna for your RV or to use outdoors, you can grab this one with a 50-mile range that’s down to $4.99 with code WLFU9XNJ. It has 4.3 stars based on 41 user reviews.

See on Amazon


Android Enterprise Recommended highlights the best phones for businesses

Recommendations include the Pixel 2, BlackBerry Motion, and others.

As a regular consumer, deciding which Android phone is best for you can often be a real struggle. When you’re in charge of a company and trying to find the best phone for your employees and co-workers, this struggle is exacerbated even more. To help alleviate some of the headaches that can come with this, Google is launching the Android Enterprise Recommended program.


Android Enterprise Recommended will highlight phones that Google deems to be the best fit for businesses/enterprises, and devices that are part of the program must be running Android 7.0 Nougat or later, offer zero-touch enrollment with bulk deployment to employees, run the latest Android security patches within 90 days of their release, and more.


These guidelines will be updated alongside the release of each new Android version, and for OEMs that have handsets within the program, they’ll receive “an enhanced level of technical support and training from Google.”

Android Enterprise Recommended is launching with 22 phones that meet its requirements, including:

  • Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL
  • BlackBerry KEYone and Motion
  • LG V30 and G6
  • Moto X4 and Z2 Force Edition
  • Huawei Mate 10, Mate 10 Pro, P10, P10 Plus, P10 Lite, and P Smart
  • Nokia 8
  • Sony Xperia XA2, XA2 Ultra, XZ1, XZ1 Compact, XZ Premium

More devices will be added to this list over the next few weeks and months, and Google says the framework for Android Enterprise Recommended will be expanded to other areas in 2018, including rugged and “dedicated” devices, mobile carriers, enterprise mobility management providers, and systems integrators.

Google’s Reply app is here and works surprisingly well


Improve your videos with better audio using the $40 Blue Snowball USB microphone

Talk about savings!

We haven’t shared a deal on the Blue Snowball condenser mic dropping to $40 since December. This is a regular price drop we’ve seen before, but it is $10 off the street price and a match for its lowest ever. Only the Black version of the mic is on sale, as White is still as $49.


If you need a mic for podcasts, streaming, or making any sort of online videos the Snowball is a great option on a budget. It uses easy plug-and-play features that let you connect to your Mac or PC with no drivers to install. It also ships with the stand so you don’t have to buy that separately. Users give it 4.4 stars based on more than 2,900 reviews.

See on Amazon


Google Assistant is now built into the Nest Cam IQ indoor camera

Nest Aware is also getting a new $5/month plan.

The Nest Cam IQ is one of the best indoor security cameras money can buy, and thanks to the company’s recent merging with Google’s hardware team, is getting even smarter.


A new software update is on its way to the indoor Nest Cam IQ, and it adds Google Assistant to the gadget. Just like the Google Home, this means you can now use voice commands to ask the Nest Cam IQ about the weather, set timers, check on the traffic to work, and more by first saying “Ok, Google” and then whatever you’d like to say.

Nest Aware can now tell the difference between people and things.

The Cam IQ will get the Google Assistant via an update to the Nest app, and while it’s currently the only product in Nest’s lineup to support this feature, it’s expected to expand to more Nest hardware as time goes on.

In addition to this, Nest’s Aware service is seeing a few upgrades. Alerts for your activity zones will now be able to distinguish between people and things, and if you have either the indoor or outdoor Cam IQ, Nest Aware will detect familiar faces in duplicate photos and merge them together in your photo library.

Lastly, Nest Aware is getting its cheapest subscription plan to-date. You can now sign up for Nest Aware for just $5/month to get 5-days of backed-up footage, and this will be joining the $10/month and $30/month plans that offer 10-days and 30-days of backups, respectively.

Nest co-founder Matt Rogers is leaving the company after nine years


Oliv. Magnetic Mounts review: Refined design


These magnetic and modular car mounts are a cut above the competition.

I’ve had a growing number of car mounting systems come across my desk for testing purposes, so I’ve developed a keen eye for determining which are worth writing about and which bring nothing new to the space. When considering a new car mount, my three main considerations are: ease of installation, ease of use, and multi-use scenarios.

ProClip sent me a couple of its new Oliv. Magnetic Mounts for consideration — the Oliv. Magnetic Button Mount ($29.99) and Oliv. Magnetic Suction Cup Mount ($39.99). The magnets used here are strong enough to hold your device securely yet safe to use with your devices. They won’t wipe your credit cards or affect the compass tech in your phone.

One of the more interesting parts of the design here is how modular each mount is. For the magnetic button mount, you only adhere a minimalist disc to your dash which you can use to directly mount your phone, or add in the included swivel mount so you can position your phone exactly the way you want. Oliv. also offers a vent mount if you don’t want to stick something to your dash.


But it’s the suction mount that really stole my attention — it’s by far the easiest suction mount I’ve ever used. Simply place it onto a smooth surface and twist the textured ring around the base and voila! The mount is secured. Want to move it or re-adjust it? Simply twist it the other way and it pops right off. No adhesives and no weird clips. It works elegantly.

And while the packaging showcases the mount as a windshield accessory, you could also use this for mounting your phone anywhere in your home or office — use it as a desktop stand for your phone, or stick it on your kitchen counter while you cook. I love it because its so easy to relocate without much fuss or mess.


The elephant in the room, as is the case with all of these magnetic mounting systems, is the requirement of sticking a little metal plate onto the back of your phone. It’s understandable that not too many people love that look. The Oliv backplate is a bit bulkier than other options I’ve looked at, too, meaning you won’t be able to slip it behind a case. My recommendation would be to instead slap it onto the back of a case, so you’re not adhering it straight to the back of your phone (although the plates it won’t stick to a silicone case). Each mount includes two metal plates, with two-packs available for $8 if you share your car with multiple people.

Included in the documentation is a list of other mounting options that will flesh out the Oliv magnetic ecosystem, including a bike mount clip that uses the same magnets. The bike mount is not currently listed on the Oliv site, but would be a compelling reason to buy into this mounting system and justify adding the metal plate to the back of your phone.

Car mounts are designed to keep your phone out of your hands while you’re behind the wheel. Be sure to check your local laws regarding car mounts and whether windshield mounts are banned by state laws before buying and always keep your eyes focused on the road ahead.

See at Oliv.


Facebook signs European licensing deal for music you share

Facebook has dealt with some criticism over the unpaid use of licensed music in videos on the company’s various platforms like Instagram. Back in September of last year, it was reported that the social network was paying out “hundreds of millions of dollars” to labels to clear songs for this kind of use. The company also made deals with Sony and Universal to let you use the publishers’ respective catalogs within uploaded videos. Now, according to a report at TechCrunch, Facebook signed a deal with licensing group ICE Services to allow around 31 million musical works from the UK, Sweden and Germany to grace the home movies you share on Instagram, Facebook, Messenger and Oculus.

The deal doesn’t cover WhatsApp, as the licensing company thinks of it as a simple one-to-one app. “We understand that WhatsApp is currently used as a pure communication tool akin to private email / messaging,” a spokesperson for ICE told TechCrunch. “This will be kept under review.” According to ICE, this is the first multi-territorial license Facebook has signed with a licensing group like this, which works with rights holder groups like PRS (UK), STIM (Sweden) and GEMA (Germany). The deal will cover 160 territories and ensure that 290,000 rights holders get paid for their work, and will offer access to cleared music for video creators via a catalogue like the already-existing Sound Collection.

Source: TechCrunch


Volvo adds the V60 wagon to its car subscription service

If you’re interested in a car subscription from Volvo, but you’re not a fan of SUVs, the Swedish automaker just announced that its new V60 wagon will be available with the service called Car by Volvo.

Care by Volvo is a bit like a lease but also includes insurance, maintenance like oil changes, wear and tear items like wiper blades and tires and roadside assistance. It’s currently available on the automaker’s small XC40 SUV starting at $600 a month.

There’s no word on what the subscription rate for the V60 will be at this time. But like the rest of the current Volvo lineup, it includes the Sensus infotainment system, Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving, and a host of safety features (Run-off Road Mitigation, Oncoming Lane Mitigation, Cross Traffic Alert) because it’s Volvo.

New Volvo V60 exterior

When it lands in the United States next year, The V60 will be available with two configurations. The T5 front wheel drive version will push out 250 horsepower while the T6 with all-wheel drive will be available with 316 horsepower. There will also be two plug-in hybrids available.

The wagon is such an integral part of the Volvo DNA, that when people think about the brand, they immediately picture the 200 Series wagons. This is the evolution of that car and frankly, for a station wagon, it’s stunning.

Source: Volvo


Netflix orders animated series from team behind ‘Bojack Horseman’

Netflix is getting another animated series from the team behind Bojack Horseman. Called Tuca & Bertie, it centers on two 30-year-old birds — Bertie, an anxious songbird, and Tuca, a more carefree toucan. The two are friends, living in the same apartment complex. Bertie hasn’t been cast yet, but Tuca will be voiced by Tiffany Haddish. Bojack Horseman producer Lisa Hanawalt created the series and it will be produced by Bojack creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Bojack producers Noel Bright and Steven A. Cohen.

Haddish has been on a number of shows including The Carmichael Show and Real Husbands of Hollywood but her breakout performance in last year’s box-office hit Girls Trip has made her a household name. Last year, she also hosted Saturday Night Live, published her first book and released a stand-up special on Showtime. Among her upcoming projects is a comedy called The Oath that also stars Ike Barinholtz, John Cho and Carrie Brownstein, a drama called The Kitchen where Haddish will star opposite Melissa McCarthy, a Kevin Hart film called Night School and a TV series starring tracy Morgan called The Last OG.

Tuca & Bertie joins Netflix’s other animated series F is for Family, Castlevania, Big Mouth and Bojack Horseman. The first season will be 10 episodes long.

Via: The Hollywood Reporter

Source: Netflix


PlayStation profiles are now available on the web

PlayStation is putting your user profile on the web. Head over to the PlayStation website today and you’ll find a new tab in the upper right corner that says “My PlayStation.” Click it and you’ll see what looks like a classic Facebook profile page. Your photo is in the upper left, along with your trophy collection, friends list and who’s online. You can also compare your trophy progress/collection against friends. Basically, it takes a lot of the functionality you’d need to turn your PS4 on or open a mobile app to get and puts it in your browser. There’s a lot of empty white space, but compared to’s overwhelmingly cluttered dashboard — the US PS Blog isn’t much better — the minimalism is appreciated. It feels a little too barren at this point, though.

There are still a few kinks. For example, your custom header image mirrors that of what’s on your PS4 profile. So, if you haven’t set one, it’ll stay the default blue. More than that, it looks like the only way to set a header image is from your console — not the web. Also, under the “edit profile” tab, there wasn’t a way to save any changes I made, like adding my middle initial to my name. It’d be nice to see what PS4 communities you’re a part of reflected on the web as well. It’s still early days and Sony promises to keep adding features, so these niggles could be ironed out soon.

Source: PlayStation Blog (US)

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